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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 4 March 2021
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'It's not like a normal end-of-season jolly up - we're looking to keep it intense'

Stephen Quinn is one of the Ireland players hoping to make a strong impression over the next three weeks.

Alex Pearce and James McClean stretch in Malahide. David Meyler (calf) remains the only injury worry ahead of Sunday's game.
Alex Pearce and James McClean stretch in Malahide. David Meyler (calf) remains the only injury worry ahead of Sunday's game.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

SUMMER FRIENDLIES MAY seem like an unwelcome chore but Ireland’s players know that they are effectively auditioning for a place in Martin O’Neill’s European Championship plans.

It has added a little bit of bite to the training sessions in Malahide this week.

“It’s very intense out there,” Stephen Quinn said as he came off the Gannon Park pitch this morning.

“It’s the end of the season but it’s not like a normal end-of-season jolly up. The manager and Roy touched on it — we’re looking to keep this intense.

“It’s only a couple more weeks and we can all have our holidays after that. There are places up for grabs there and all the lads look sharp.”

At first glance Ireland’s fixture list is far from straightforward.

Turkey, who visit the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, are the lowest-ranked of the four sides at 39th in the world while Italy (9th), Costa Rica (34th) and Portugal (3rd) will all be fine-tuning ahead of the World Cup.

“It’s good for the manager,” Quinn added. “He gets to have a really good look at all the players here.

Stephen Quinn 23/5/2014 Hull's Quinn is hoping to add to his three Ireland caps. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The players aren’t holding back, they’re looking sharp. It’s all pointing towards these qualifiers and everyone wants to be in the team.

Sitting at home — or on the beach — while the rest of the football world is focused on Brazil will only fuel Ireland’s desire when the Euro 2016 qualifiers begin against Georgia on 7 September.

“All eyes will be on the World Cup, watching the world’s greatest stars. That’s where we want to be and want to get to, and I’m sure the manager will want to do it for the European Championships.

“In Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane we’ve got two of Ireland’s greats. It’s an honour to work with them.

“Playing for these two legends, it’s an honour, so all the lads are really looking sharp and positive and looking forward to these four games.”

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Niall Kelly

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